Rosebank

Rosebank is one of the most legendary closed distilleries in Scotland. The Lowland distillery is now only available in rare collectibles. “Its whisky, at its peak (not too woody!) Is as floral as the name. It was one of the finest malts produced in the Lowlands, according to the tradition of the region, by triple distillation. A grievous loss! - Michael Jackson

In 2017, Ian Macleod, who also own the Glengoyne and Tamdhu distilleries, acquired the rights to Rosebank. In 2019 Ian Macleod received approval to rebuild Rosebank. At Rosebank Distillery, too, investors attach great importance to maintaining the original sweet and floral taste profile of the whiskies. The three stills for triple distillation and the worm tub condensers are to be installed in the old distillery building. Rosebank will resume triple distillation and work with traditional worm tub condensers. A visitor center for the expected 50,000 annual visitors is also planned including tasting room and shop. The distillery should be operational again in 2021, but it will be a while before the new whiskies are released.

Rosebank Distillery

The Rosebank distillery was once located on the Forth-Clyde Canal, overgrown with roses (hence the name), on the outskirts of Falkirk. The origins of the Rosebank distillery reportedly date back to the 1790s, though official sources say that the distillery was founded in 1840. Had the distillery survived it would be vying for position as one of Scotlands oldest but it was not to be.

The Rosebank Single Malt went down in history as the iconic Lowland Whisky. Many whisky drinkers consider rosebank, triple distilled according to the old Lowland tradition, to be the best among the Lowland Malts. Nevertheless, and even under violent protests, the owner United Distillers decided to close Rosebank in 1993 because they wanted to concentrate on the more attractive Glenkinchie distillery.

In 2002 the buildings were sold to British Waterways. Most of the non-ferrous metal production equipment from the distillery, which was only shut down in 1993, was stolen during the holidays around the turn of 2008/09 - presumably by metal thieves. Consequently all of the production equipment in the old distillery building from stills and worm coolers had to be replaced. These were designed on the old, to replicate Rosebank’s historic style of the sweet, flowery Lowland single malt.

Some of the buildings have already been demolished and blocks of flats have been built on. The chimney, which is over 30 meters high, will be preserved. In addition, the location of the distillery is very unusual, as the site is now a wedge at a roundabout of the star-shaped intersection of several roads - A803, B816 and A9 with the bridge over the Forth & Clyde Canal. The triangular terrain offers no real possibility of direct expansion due to the adjacent road (A803) and the canal. Even the former large warehouse is separated from production by a road and has since been converted into a restaurant and apartments.

Production

The lowlands distillery’s water was sourced from the Carron Valley Reservoir in the Fintry Hills. It had an iron mash tun, a wash, a low wine and a spirit still for triple distillation, capacity sitting at around 559,000 litres per annum. Because the whisky contains little or no peat, its character is gentler than that of other regions. The few remaining Rosebank single malt whiskies from the 1970s and 1980s are now rare whisky, are of exceptional quality and are in great demand among connoisseurs and collectors alike. Rosebank was one of the last distilleries to distill using the tranditional Lowland triple distilaltion method, alongside Auchentoshan.

History

The Rosebank distillery was founded in Camelon in the Scottish Lowlands in an area north of the English border and south of the imaginary line between Greenock in the west and Dundee in the east around 1840 by James Rankine. Although distillation on the site by the Stark brothers probably dates to at least 1798. Opposite Rosebank, on the other side of the Forth-Clyde Canal, John Stark’s Camelon Distillery was founded in 1826. Upon it’s closure in 1861 James Rankine leased the Camelon distillery malting house and the site became the maltings for Rosebank distillery. Camelon was all but demolished leaving only the malting house by 1865.

In 1886 the distillery was visited by Alfred Barnard (the first whiskey historian). He noted that the Rosebank distillery spanned both sides of the canal and was connected to a swing bridge. The malt was produced in the former Camelon malting plants on the west bank of the canal and then transported to the distillery via the swing bridge.During the Second World War, Rosebank was one of the few distilleries to remain in production.

The Rankine family managed to grow and modernize the distillery and in 1914, Rosebank alongside Glenkinchie, Grange, St. Magdalene and Clydesdale became one of the five founding distilleries of the Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD). Though from 1917 to 1919 production ceased. 1925 saw SMD folded into Distillers Company Limited (DCL). In 1968 the old malt house was closed and demolished. In 1987 the distillery passed to United Destillers (UD, now Diageo). The closure in 1993 was not based on quality, but rather with the unwillingness of UD at the time to spend the estimated £ 2 million on the renovation of the wastewater treatment plant. In addition, they preferred to include Glenkinchie as a Lowland representative in the new Classic Malts range, as their capacity was 5 times higher and Glenkinchie also offered more options for a visitor center. Road traffic problems were also a contributing factor.

In 2002, the property was sold to Scottish Canals, leading to a first phase of redevelopment, including luxury homes with a view of the Forth & Clyde Canal. Warehouse # 6 is now a beefeater restaurant and the rosebank distillery on the other side of the canal is still a prominent landmark, but its condition has deteriorated.

In January 2009, the BBC reported that parts of the facility had been stolen by copper thieves: “Central Scotland Police said the copper and steel equipment, worth a six-figure sum, was taken from the Rosebank distillery in Camelon”. The theft occurred sometime between Christmas Day and 20 January. The police said they believed the equipment was stolen to sell on the scrap metal market despite the re-sale value being lower. There are plans to reopen the distillery in 2020, but everything will be rebuilt except for an old flour mill - which was reclaimed from Port Ellen.

Distillery Factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Rosebank Lowlands Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Reawakening 1798 - 1993 Malt Rosebank Not Available
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group

Rosebank Timeline:

1798: First record of distilling by Messrs Stark

1817: A distillery by the name of Rosebank begins production

1840: 1840 by James Rankine, a local grocer and wine and spirit merchant

1861: The Camelon distillery maltings are acquired for use by Rosebank

1868: The Camelon distillery maltings are closed down

1894: Rosebank Distillery Ltd. was formed. Rankine held half of the capital

1897: A second issue of shares fully subscribed

1900: Hit very hard by thePattison whisky crisis

1914: Among the companies that formed Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD)

1925: Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD) became part of Distillers Company Ltd. (DCL)

1988: A short lived 8 year old expression is launched

1993: Distillery closed

2002: The site is sold on for development

2009: The stills and production equipment were stolen for scrap metal